Beat the Bottlenecks

Commercial trucks and passenger vehicles drive across Ambassador Bridge on the Canada-U.S. border in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. Photographer: Cole Burston/Bloomberg

What causes a truck to slow to 45 miles per hour on a major roadway? You probably ask yourself that every time you get caught up in one of those slowdowns on the highway.

Is there an accident ahead, road construction? Or is it just simply traffic at a challenging time of the day? Is it all of the above?

The American Transport Research Institute (ATRI) released the top 100 worst bottlenecks, as told by truck GPS data from over 1 million freight trucks.

“For decades, ATA has been sounding the alarm about how the condition of our highways is contributing to congestion – which slows down commerce, contributes to pollution and reduces safety,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. “ATRI’s bottleneck report highlights where our most critical issues are and should be a guide for policymakers at the state and federal level.

“The cost of doing nothing is always higher than the cost of fixing these problems and we cannot wait any longer to address this mounting crisis.”

Listed below are the top 10 and a few alternate routes to consider when approaching.

1. Fort Lee, New Jersey: I-95 at SR 4

No. 1 for the third year in a row. Nearby the country’s most congested bottleneck, I-287 offers a more northern route through New York State. More nearby options are south of this interchange but involve tunnels with strict height restrictions.

2. Cincinnati: I-71 at I-75

Jumping up from the previous No. 8 spot, this area was a lot more congested in 2020 than years past. This being such a problematic spot could be attributed to last year’s newsworthy closure of the Brent Spence Bridge. Drivers can use the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge (U.S. 25) and the Taylor Southgate Bridge (U.S. 27) to get to and from Downtown without using the interstate.

3. Atlanta: I-285 at I-85 (North)

Georgia landed seven spots in this top 100 list. With six of those “those being in Atlanta, knowing your way around this city is integral to avoiding traffic. North of this bottleneck, Georgia State Route 6 meets I-285. A driver will almost certainly also hit I-85 coming in or out, but Georgia 6 avoids the infamous Spaghetti Junction interchange.

4. Atlanta: I-20 at I-285 (West)

Taking up two of the top ten spots, Atlanta is a huge bump in the road for truckers. To avoid this hot spot, drivers can use Highway 78 in or out of this traffic-heavy Atlanta area. Georgia State Route 6 is also a viable option on the south side of this interchange.

“Congestion threatens our economy and our industry’s ability to safely and efficiently move critical goods like medicine and food,” said Georgia Motor Trucking Association President and CEO Ed Crowell. “Despite the pandemic, trucks continued moving and delivering their critical loads, but their jobs were made more difficult by these chokepoints … A focus on improving freight movement benefits everyone and helps secure our state’s economic future.”

5. Houston: I-45 at I-69/US 59

This city’s map looks like an interstate roundabout from a bird’s eye view. Living up to its name, U.S. Route 90 Alternate is a great way to avoid this spot. The aforementioned route is south of the infamous I-45 at I-69 interchange. To the north, I-10 will take you right across Houston, hitting I-45 and I-69 in two different spots.

6. Chicago: I-290 at I-90/I-94

To the north of this interchange is Illinois Route 62. This can meet back up with I-90 on the east side after a little trip down Illinois 83. Going westbound, Illinois Route 72 meets back up with I-90 a little ways down the road.

7.  Chattanooga, Tennessee: I-75 at I-24

Although this is the only location Tennessee placed in the top ten, five other locations made it to the list of 100. One other interchange in Chattanooga placed No. 53, the rest are in Nashville. Highways 64 and 41 can provide viable detour options, depending on where a driver comes from or where they are headed.

“Tennessee is at the crossroads of the country, and increasingly that intersection is being choked by congestion,” said Tennessee Trucking Association President Dave Huneryager.

“Continuing roadway construction in Nashville and Chattanooga certainly contributed to these rankings, but the fact that there were still significant bottlenecks in our highway system even though people drove less is proof positive that we need to continue investing in infrastructure to make our roads and bridges safer and more efficient.”

8. St. Louis: I-64/I-55 at I-44

If looking to cross the Mississippi River in this area, this seems to be the place to be. Just north of this interchange, I-70 meets I-44 for another bridge over the waters. Drivers can make their way back to their regular route through Midtown or East St Louis.

9. Rye, New York: I-95 at I-287

The state is home to six of the top 100 worst bottlenecks. On the north side of this interchange, Grace Church Street and Mill St./Delavan Avenue offer a passage to I-95 from Highway 1. This highway also offers a connecting route on the south side of things.

“Last year presented many new challenges to our country and our industry, and sadly, congested highways remained an obstacle,” said Trucking Association of New York President Kendra Hems.

10. San Bernardino, California: I-10 at I-15

California is home to a whopping eight bottleneck hotspots. This interchange is a little ways away from the city, but still occupies a top ten spot in this list. I-215 is to the east of this intersection, reachable by Route 66 and 60. These routes also offer options to reach the desired interstate on the east side.

“California is at the heart of the American economy – from our ports and farms to our factories and cities – the nation relies on our state, and increasingly congestion threatens all of our health and well-being,” said California Trucking Association CEO Shawn Yadon.

“Increased congestion hurts our economy by adding costly delays, but also harms our environment with unnecessary emissions as trucks and cars stay stuck in traffic. Reducing congestion by investing in infrastructure can be a win-win for all Californians and all Americans.”

For the complete top 100 List, click here.

Reagan Payne is a staff writer for Wright Media. She can be reached at

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